(Bloomberg) — Lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes attacked the credibility of an Ivy League medical school professor who prosecutors want to testify at her upcoming criminal trial, arguing he’s being used to “parrot” a potentially more damaging witness — an ex-Theranos Inc. laboratory director.
For a second day, Holmes and her lawyers appeared in-person Wednesday in the federal court where the Theranos founder and former chief executive officer is scheduled to go to trial in August on charges that the blood-test startup once valued at $9 billion was a fraud. U.S. District Judge Edward Davila in San Jose, California, is winnowing the evidence and testimony jurors will consider.
Holmes claimed Theranos blood-test results were of the “highest accuracy,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach told Davila. The testimony of Stephen Master, an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at the University of Pennsylvania’s Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “puts the lie to that,” Leach said.
After Davila extinguished an attempt by Holmes’s lawyers to knock Master out entirely as a witness, concluding he’s qualified to testify about blood-testing industry standards, they set about trying to curtail his testimony.
Though Master dominated the discussion, the arguments offered a peek at how government prosecutors intend to use him to corroborate and amplify the testimony of another, potentially more significant witness: former Theranos lab director Adam Rosendorff.
Rosendorff is an inherently dangerous witness to Holmes because he was a high-level insider with direct contact and communications with her. Prosecutors say that in November 2014, Rosendorff complained to Holmes that he was being pressured to vouch for blood-test results he didn’t believe in. They’ve also said he’ll testify about the increasing number of complaints about results from Theranos customers in that period.
Prosecutors want Master to help the jury’s “understanding” of Rosendorff’s complaints, according to a court filling.
Amy Saharia, a lawyer for Holmes, told Davila that Master’s opinions about certain blood tests, including those for chloride, sodium, and potassium, are “based on emails and customer complaints” and are “not a scientifically valid way to reach conclusions.”
The judge earlier said he has “some problems” with Master’s testimony about those particular tests.
Master’s opinions about other tests, for cholesterol and vitamin D, reach beyond the academic articles he relied on to form his conclusions, Saharia argued.
The lawyer reinforced Davila’s decision that a separate hearing is required down the road devoted to Master’s testimony. Saharia told Davila she intends to ask Master “how he was able to reach an opinion that the study’s authors didn’t reach.”
Saharia also sought to block Master from telling jurors about blood-testing industry standards. The case hinges on whether Holmes lied about the accuracy and reliability of Theranos blood tests, not about whether Theranos violated regulations or operated within industry standards, she told Davila.
Master is being used to “parrot Dr. Rosendorff,” and “in some instances after the fact, which doesn’t reflect Dr. Rosendorff’s real-time assessments,” Saharia said. “His opinions don’t fit the case.”
The case is U.S. v. Holmes, 18-cr-00258, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).